(This review by Karl Wells was first published online by Atlantic Books Today Magazine, spring 2021)
Atlantic Seafood: Recipes from Chef Michael Howell
Nimbus Publishing Limited
A good cookbook must have recipes that are appealing, recipes with easy-to-find ingredients, recipes with easy-to-follow instructions, and recipes that work. The last requirement is, of course, the most important. The new edition of Atlantic Seafood by Michael Howell (first published in 2009) sails through all four tests, except one. A handful of ingredients listed, such as achiote powder, mulberry syrup, sambal olek, kataifi, smoked eel, sturgeon, and possibly, yucca, may not be easily sourced by rural home cooks. This may be a moot point if you’re well served by online grocers.
Howell’s cookbook, with its surprisingly small total of 60 recipes, is useful to cooks who entertain. Most of the recipes are outside the “everyday” category. Some have several parts and most contain a dozen or more ingredients involving plenty of time-consuming slicing and dicing. Several appealed to me right away. First, I made Howell’s Esqueixada (Shredded Salt Cod Salad). It’s important that the salt cod be the best possible because it’s used uncooked. Fresh, ripe tomatoes, sweet peppers, onion, and vinaigrette provide a pleasant range of extra flavours and texture. If you prefer cooked salt fish, just boil it, and then shred.
Next, I prepared Chef Howell’s Provençale Seafood Stew with Halibut, Shrimp and Mussels. This recipe involves some work, but the result is wonderfully delicious. The stew is served with a Roasted Red Pepper Aioli. You can roast the pepper on a barbecue or in the oven. Chef Howell suggests oven roasting, until charred, should take 10 minutes at 400F. It took 20 minutes in my oven. Be sure to keep stirring the vegetables and tomato paste while sautéing, or you’ll end up with a burnt layer on the bottom of your pot. Puréeing the tin tomatoes and cooking liquid makes for a superb presentation. And please include the recommended 1/2 cup Pernod. It really boosts the taste.
Atlantic Seafood’s food photography is textbook-like and some of the food plating looks dated. Apart from biographical changes and updates in the section, “Where to Buy Seafood,” it is still a book from 2009. Plenty can change in 12 years.